Perhaps it is all in your perception, but, personally I feel best and perform best when I see my tasks and actions as an opportunity to create and share value. I view these as events that brand me. These are things I am most proud of.
Whereas when I find myself acting out of pure obligation I feel that I am sacrificing something or doing something that I don’t want to. In most cases, this occurs when I am doing something for someone I view as non deserving of unappreciative of my actions. Typically I approach these actions with low energy and low personal satisfaction.
Now here’s the truth. Both situations define and brand you. As an individual, I feel, you must find value in your actions even if the recipient is not an avid cheerleader. It’s your actions that you control not the action of others that count. If it’s good it’s good either way.
Our personal brand is the standard we aspire to. Our actions either support that standard or not and it’s all under our control. Have not defined your personal brand yet it’s not too late. Here a couple of actions to help you along.
- Listen to your heart, mind and soul. Define yourself in the most positive light.
- Identify the as is. Take an honest look at those actions / things that align to the most positive you and also those things that don’t.
- Determine the list of things you’ll like to change ranking them in most important and urgent to less important and less urgent.
- Realize you can’t get up the next morning a changed person, but, you can get up the next morning a more determined person with a plan to strive towards your most positive you.
- Realize you have the rest of your life ahead of you and while the past is written your future is yet to be realized and will be defined by your actions going forward.
- Be accountable to yourself and others. Your actions create your person brand. Evaluate the person you strive to be against the person seen by others. Be consistent and walk you image. Make a promise and consistanty meet it.
- Be genuine. Being true to yourself means never having to act. Chase negativity replacing it with positivity.
- Be accepting of you minor faults and those of others. We’re humans and not perfect.
- See the world through multicolored glasses. Consider the many / alternative perspectives as relevant not just your own. Don’t fall victim to your personal biases and blind spots.
Taking control of your personal brand ensures you act and behave in a manner consist with you beliefs, values and ambitions. Living a life full of opportunities and with no regrets is largely under your control and within your reach. Making obligations into opportunities to contribute can shift and energize your perception into alignment with the most positive you.
Stop talking and listen. The key to achieving effective delegation of work is to foster bi-directional communication where clarity can be established and details defined.
“I know you heard what I said but you didn’t understand what I meant”
This happens all the time. As the leader it is your responsibility to take measures to ensure the success of your employees. Where many leaders fall short is delegating responsibilities and not providing for the opportunity for the employee to fully understand and validate the assignment. Waiting to the deadline to find out the assignment wasn’t understood and will not be completed to desired expectations is courting failure -yours not theirs.
Message verification is critical.
I use a 3 question approach.
1) Do you and your employee understand what the successful outcome looks like? Have them tell you what they have heard. Are they comfortable with the assignment? Right here you can validate employee understanding of the desired outcome and set them up for success.
2) Can your employee or team identify their strategy, tactics or actions to achieve the desired outcome? It’s key that they can articulate their approach indicating both ownership and competency. This is an excellent question to disclose potential issues, as well as an opportunity to mentor, offer supportive suggestions to increase the likelihood of success.
3) Any issues, obstacles, concerns or assistance required is identified. This signals to your employee that you are not delegating and departing but will remain an active resource. Many initiatives will encounter unforeseen obstacles and as leaders your ongoing support and mentorship is invaluable.
Collectively these questions increase the likelihood of getting an on time and successful outcome. Additionally, I recommend scheduled progress reviews to ensure the employees success is on track. Good leaders empower, equip and support. This does not mean micromanagement so be sure to support and not direct.
The problem is obvious. Merely going through the motions of business planning won’t get the desired results, it will get the obvious ones.
Imagine you paid good money to see a professional sporting event and the participants sauntered onto the playing field looking out of shape and under prepared. They go through the motions lacking the significant passion or commitment obviously required and not really caring if they win or lose. Clearly this would not be acceptable.
Similarly, when you take the time and expense to take your “key” staff offsite you should NOT accept such behavior. It’s the leader’s role to inspire and harness the passions of their staff by providing a vision bigger than the individuals and requiring collaboration, innovation and collective purpose. It’s the senior staff’s responsibility to create a culture of accountability and commitment to one another, their employees and the company in pursuit of the desired results. That’s how teams work and results are achieved.
Here are the wrong signs:
- You plan the event weeks in advance and people reluctantly show up unprepared.
- Presentations requested show up late of the requested deadline and are incomplete.
- Participants take every opportunity to get their phone out and keep in touch with the office.
- The event is all fluff and form but lacks substance.
- No one believes anything of value will result from the exercise. Often based on past experiences.
- AND I AM SURE YOU CAN ADD FIVE MORE OF YOU OWN!
“You get what you accept so expect more and get more”
So how do you solve this –you get serious!
- Define the purpose of the event and what success looks like.
Make it clear that the purpose of the event is to discuss the issues or initiatives required to address the critical needs of the business. Be specific in advance and charge your people to come to the meeting prepared with answer and solutions. Create the expectation that this meeting is of upmost importance and requires participants to bring their “A” game.
- This is not a 1 -2 day event, it is the launching plan of the key business initiatives the organization will commit to successfully achieving. Defining both the strategy and execution in actionable specific steps is a must. These are not optional nice to haves and failure to achieve then is not an acceptable option, so debates and commitments made are real and achievable.
- Check your distractions at the door. Ensure the office knows these people are unavailable for the duration of the event. They can check in after the event. If the staff can’t manage without then for the day ask why.
- Make the event real. Deal with real issues or real opportunities. I will add several links at the conclusion of this post for those who want clarification. Walking out of that event without full understanding and commitment is not acceptable. Make your Strategy Real.
- Strategy without execution is of no value. If you have a goal you need a realistic plan to achieving it. Poor execution is almost always the leading cause of failure of strategic plan initiatives. Most goals are achievable given focus, passion, commitment and enduring commitment. The execution plan needs to be a living document that guides and measures your progress throughout the year.
- If at any time during the meeting inappropriate levels of attention, intensity or lack of effort or commitment / buy in is observed, stop the meeting and address the causes before proceeding. Don’t let the meeting deteriorate.
In summary, the difference in producing and executing a successful Strategic Plan is setting and maintaining the expectation that the organization will commit to, and realize the stated business initiatives by taking the actions to make it real.
Make Your Strategy Real
Look Back to move forward
There are those consultants with the philosophy that as long as the cheques cashed it’s all good. Where and how do you draw the line in the sand with clients?
Over the last 10+ years I have provided Business Consulting to over 60 businesses and senior leaders. Prior to this I held senior management positions in Finance, Operations and Marketing throughout North America. So I have been on both sides, as a client and as the one providing the consulting services.
Let’s begin with understanding The Consultant’s Dilemma.
- As a consultant do you attempt to put things in the best possible light telling the client what they want to hear or do you tell then what they need to hear?
- As a consultant do you gloss over sensitive business issues to avoid making the customer upset or do you risk being fired because your efforts are viewed as disruptive / uncomfortable to the organization?
- As a consultant do you go along with a poor / or an incomplete plan because that’s what the client wants despite you knowing you’re facilitating failure, or do you openly challenge the clients assumptions and reasoning?
- As a consultant do you continue showing up despite knowing that your client is failing or unwilling to take agreed upon actions necessary to achieve the desired outcomes, or do you terminate the assignment and part ways?
- As a consultant do you perform the responsibilities of others to achieve success or do you identify organization deficiencies for resolution?
These real life situations are not uncommon and represent a significant challenge. The Business Consultants knowing when to invest more time and effort to facilitate a transformation versus knowing when walking away. Its essential consultants accept that change is not made it’s accepted and acted on.
Leader versus Manager Roles
The above link will take you to a post discussing the differences between the contributions of Leaders versus Managers. To me each provide equally important value to their organizations. While a Leader may make a larger contribution to strategic visioning without the dedication and competency of managers, front line supervisors and hard-working committed front line employees execution of that vision will not be realized. Strategic vision realization is everyone’s job and smart leaders whom get out of their seats and walk the floors will learn and benefit from what they see. Credit belongs to those doing the work! Great Leaders inspire great Workers deliver!
As leaders we need to create a sense of urgency in our organizations to harness the collective energy of our workforce. It is important that the organization is always being enabled and challenged to improve, and indifference and apathy get rooted out. This is best accomplished through the establishing, and robust execution of key business initiatives developed during the annual planning process and the development of a results orientated culture differentiating your business to customers and employees alike.
”Leaders must inspire action not demand it.”
Employee buy-in is best accomplished through enablement and not coercion. Coercion creates rebellion / pushback and anxiety. When employees feel pressured to perform they look for ways to reduce it and this may result in low performance, withdrawal or departure. Any gains through coercion are short-lived. A good leader will challenge but will not dictate.
As a leader we must create an environment where purpose is clear and where employees are actively involved early in the process.
“Don’t tell me what to do ask me to how to achieve the desired result.”
Engagement occurs when employees value the accomplishment of the goal and feel connected to the achievement of it through their efforts and contributions. Ensuring roadblocks and obstacles are removed is a key management support action in ensuring employee efforts are not unnecessarily hampered with unneeded bureaucracy or other business inefficiencies. As examples these two disruptors a) unclear responsibilities / ownership creates unnecessary power struggles orb) indecisive management decision-making are real de-motivators.
Keys to Building Engagement:
- Employees understand the goals and buy into their accomplishment.
- Employees feel empowered to a goal ownership level.
- The Plan is real and achievable.
- Success / rewards / recognition are distributed to those contributing to the attainment.
- Failure is understood and not punished.
- Leaders enable and don’t interfere.
- Trust and respect are real and not just slogans.
- Underperformance and inefficiencies are understood and resolved.
- Expectations are reasonable and sustainable.
- Accountability is clear for execution purposes not blame assignment.
As leaders we must step back and see things for what they are. I call this curb vision. This is looking at your business without bias and seeing things as they really are not as you would like them or accept them. Identifying where opportunity is and seizing it will ensure urgency is consistent and ongoing. Any Thoughts?